Bumptious: The Beauty of College Football

When I was looking at colleges, my dad and I were driving in his car one day, and he looked over at me and said, “Why don’t you think about Stanford?” The thought of going to another Pac-10 school had never even crossed my mind. I didn’t even hesitate: “I won’t cheer for Stanford. I’m not a tree.” He turned his head away from the road for a minute and said, “You’d rather be an Eph?” I casually turned back and snapped, “They’re still purple and gold.”

As long as I can remember I was raised on University of Washington Husky football. Living in Seattle, it was just a matter of fact that I would by a Husky fan, everyone was. For me, though, the loyalty to the Huskies transcended hometown fanity. I was a Husky fan by experience. My dad took me to my first Husky game when I was eight years old, and the Huskies destroyed the University of Southern California quite decisively, and would go on to win a share of the National Title, in the days before the BCS.

I feared that when I arrived on the other side of the country, that the Williams purple and gold would overwhelm my true loyalty for my D-1 team. No, it was as if Williams filled the void left by my high school.

Every Saturday promptly at 3:30, I sit down in front of my computer and use the webcast of the game as an excuse to be pathetic over the weekend. Perhaps that – the image of a first year, wearing sweat pants and a long-underwear t-shirt, eating pop tarts and drinking Pepsi while listening to the webcast of a college football game – perhaps that is the beauty of college football. I hope not.

This week, I was relating the story of my dad and my first trip to Husky Stadium together. For the unenlightened, Husky Stadium is renowned as one of the most difficult places to play football in the Pac-10. Its horseshoe shape opens up onto Lake Washington, where autumn boaters dock their boats, tailgate, and then take little launches to watch the game with the rest of the fans.

The bleachers are painted bright gold, and the true fans wear purple. It is louder than any stadium in the Pac-10 by design, and if the Dawg defense is lining up with their backs to the endzone in the closed end of the stadium, a goal-line is stand is all but guaranteed.

It is the tradition of the place that I love. It is the same route every Saturday to get to the game. It is the same parking lot, right behind Johnny’s Flower Shop, it is eating at the same local coffee shop for breakfast, it is walking across Red Square, around the fountain, and into tunnel 17 that I love.

It is a tiny eight-year old boy, grasping his father’s hand tightly in love as they work their way through the crowd. It is that same boy, resting on his father’s shoulders as the Dawgs charge out of the tunnel. It is those two later, the father and the son, at the Rose Bowl in UCLA cheering for the same purple and gold.

These are the things that college football is made of. These are the things that draw fans to Husky Stadium every Saturday; these are the traditions of one school.

For other schools, they are Touchdown Jesus, they are the winged helmet, they are the Seminole chop. Fans walk every Saturday to Notre Dame Stadium or to Memorial Stadium in Omaha to take part in the traditions passed down from fathers to sons everywhere.

Whether it’s the Apple Cup between the University of Washington and Washington State University, or playing for the Boot between Notre Dame and Boston College, or Texas A&M versus Texas. Everyone loves the big game, everyone loves that Saturday.

The beauty of College Football is the spirit behind it. It is the pride of the UCLA players of wearing the baby-blue and gold. It is the awesome force of the Alabama Crimson. It is the strength and honor of slapping the “Play Like a Champion Today” plaque on the way out of the tunnel at Notre Dame. It is tradition. And tradition makes history. And history defines us.

So this weekend, when Amherst takes on Williams, there will be new traditions, there is a new rivalry and there is a new experience. And that is a part of college football; that is a part of this beautiful Saturday tradition. And I’m still cheering for the purple and the gold. I love it, always have, always will.

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